Net Impact Soap Box

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Desalting seawater may hold promise

By Associated Press, April 24, 2008,1,5069749.story

There's probably a place for desalted seawater in meeting the nation's future water needs, but research is needed to reduce the costs and impact on the environment, the National Research Council says.In a report released Thursday, the NRC said that improving technology is making it more realistic to consider desalination of water.
Some 97% of the water on Earth -- seawater and brackish groundwater -- is too salty for drinking or irrigation."Uncertainties about desalination's environmental impacts are currently a significant barrier to its wider use, and research on these effects -- and ways to lessen them -- should be the top priority," said Amy K. Zander, chair of the committee that wrote the report and a professor at Clarkson University."Finding ways to lower costs should also be an objective. A coordinated research effort dedicated to these goals could make desalination a more practical option for some communities facing water shortages," Zander said in a statement.
There is currently no overall coordination of federal research on desalination, and the analysis recommended that the government work be coordinated by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. Most desalination research has been funded by private business, the report notes.

Environmental concerns include threats to fish and other aquatic animals from water intakes, high energy use in the salt-removal process and disposal of the salty sludge left over from the process. The study was sponsored by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The National Research Council is an arm of the National Academy of Sciences, an independent organization chartered by Congress to advise the government on scientific matters.

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